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Its December 17th 2004, the day that sent shockwaves throughout the Raptors organization and the NBA alike. Vince Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. The Raptors franchise player and all-time points leader (at the time) and was leaving for greener pastures south of the border. It was something that was brewing but the aftermath took years for the Dinos to recover from.
Originally, Carter was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 1998 draft, however, the Raptors had their eyes on Carter and traded for him sending Antwan Jamison to the bay area. With Stoudamire gone, Carter emerged as a star immediately. An explosive and exciting player, Canadian fans fell in love with him and basketball like never before.
His rookie campaign was shortened due to a lock out, but the Raptors record improved to 23-27, and Carter's presence had already been felt. Things would only get better as Carter would average 25 ppg, named an all-star and set the basketball world ablaze after the 2000 dunk contest. At this point the world was in the palm of his hands and the Raptors had themselves a bonafide superstar which would lead them to a 45 win season and a playoff berth.
The next year they would continue to improve and Carter would continue to expand his fan base. Another all-star appearance for Carter meant another successful year for the Raps. Finishing second in their division, Toronto was heading to back-to-back postseasons for the first time in franchise history. The hype train was being set in motion, and for good reason.
A 1st round rematch was in store for the Raps as they would face off against the Knicks, unlike last year though, the Raps would prevail in 5 games. With their first ever playoff series victory under their belts the franchise was riding high, and Carter was at the centre of attention. The next round would see two superstars collide as Vinsanity would square up against The Answer, Allen Iverson.
The Sixers- Raptors series was entertaining. The two stars would battle back and forth, each game challenging the other to rise to the occasion. Iverson would score 54 points in game 2 but Carter bounced back with 50 points in game 3. Trading blows, and trading wins, the series was square at 3-3 heading into game 7, this was where controversy would arise.
The morning of the game Carter decided to attend his graduation from North Carolina. Although a big accomplishment, many wondered if Vinsanity should attend in the face of playing in the biggest game in his career. Carter would miss a game-winning shot down by one and after the game the media backlash was horrendous. Carter’s relationship with the franchise and the city was never the same.
Carter would continue to make all-star appearances but the Raptors would never see the same success as that 2000-01season. As the years passed by the injuries would pile up for Carter and the win totals would become fewer and fewer for the Raps and finally it came to a head. would be harder to come by. would lose to Detroit in 5 games in the first round.
After a few down seasons and three coaching changes in three years, the Raptors cleaned house and Carter would make headlines as he refused to dunk in games. When asked why he said he felt like dunking was "overrated”. The man who at one time set the world on fire because his flair for the dunk now refused to do what he was best at. Needless to say the fans (and media) weren’t happy and nor was Carter.
On December 17th, 2004, Vince Carter got his wish.
Carter was dealt to New Jersey, and just so many others, I was pretty pissed. I despised Vince Carter. I looked at him as a quitter and baby, a leader that lacked leadership. What was worse was what Toronto got in return. An aging Alonzo Mourning, who took a pass on playing in Toronto, Eric and Aaron Williams, and two first-round picks, which didn't result in much.
Carter however, was back dunking and looked to have a new zest for the game. He'd played great in New Jersey to be frank. Playing like an all-star again, the Raps were heading in the opposite direction and my love for basketball started to dwindle. My love for Vince turned into hate. In the 2007 playoffs, the Raptors had home court against the Nets but they couldn't stop Carter. Sad days for the Raps organization.
As the years went on Toronto would become contenders and then champions. Carter would become the only player to play in four different decades in the NBA while breaking the record for most seasons played in the NBA with 22 but no ring to show for it. What’s funny is Carter's 25,000th point was recorded against the Raptors, a dunk no less.
The Raptors should one day retire the number 15. We have forgiven Mr. Carter and now looking back on his time in T.O. I appreciate what he did for the Raptors and the city. If It wasn't for Vince, would the Raptors be gone just like the Grizzlies? It's possible, and that's why we should be grateful.